Panic broke out during a recent choir rehearsal. The new director of our community choir turned suddenly to the sopranos and asked them to sing a line of music. The_Little_Engine_That_CouldOne at a time. Alone. Amid tense silence and a little nervous laughter, each soprano took her turn, singing, “Like a rose, a lo-vley rose …” The director matter-of-factly moved through the section, listening to each singer, moving them around until he was satisfied with the ensemble’s sound. No question about it; the group sounded infinitely better, even to my amateur ears.

Luckily for me, we ran out of time before he got to the altos, where for years I’ve been a sturdy, back-row singer. Pretty quickly I realized I wasn’t lucky at all: Now I had an entire week to worry – like obsessing about a dentist or gynecologist appointment. I’ve performed with choruses and in plays since a child – always a reliable chorus member, never a soloist. You know that woman sitting on the hay bale singing and smiling? Or the one on the end of the row washing that man right out of her hair? That’s me. I’m a confident public speaker, but a soloist? Not so much.

As a board member, I knew I had to suck it up. I supported our new director. And I couldn’t expect others to do something I wouldn’t do. I’m a team player. And I love singing with the choir and value the magical ways music touches my heart and soul. So the next week, I gritted my teeth and awaited my turn.

Guess what? My stomach quaked and my voice creaked a bit, but it went fine. No one laughed. I didn’t die. No flames erupted.

By the end of the exercise, the majority of my choir mates agreed it was helpful. We bonded over our shared fear and personal effort for the common good. And next time it will be easier.

Like the little engine that could, I climbed that metaphorical hill and got over it safely. No, it wasn’t Everest. But it’s a reminder that small risks often seem too difficult to overcome. And taking risks builds confidence.

Freelance life overflows with risks and challenges. Should I apply for that job? Will this editor hire me? Does this story idea make sense? Where can I find that information? What if that source won’t talk with me? How do I set up an efficient office by myself? Can I create a website? Dare I charge that much?

Next time I doubt my abilities, I’ll hop on the train, sing a few verses and push ahead, squeaky voice and all.


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